Set a place at the table

April 25, 2012 in Uncategorized

I don’t like to cook.

I used to.

When I was married.

And trying to be the perfect wife.

I cooked and cleaned and baked.

I got up every morning and put on an apron.

I had a different one for every day of the week.

I had aprons for every occasion.  Christmas.  Easter.  St.Patrick’s day.

My grandmother (I call her Nana) told me once that the way to keep a man happy is through his stomach.

Just the other day she asked if I’m teaching my girls to cook because “…you don’t want their husbands leaving them the way yours did because you don’t know how to prepare a good meal”

Don’t worry.  I don’t fault her.

She is 90 years old.

She grew up on a farm the youngest of many.

Her parents married her off at 14 to her math teacher because he showed up at the house one day with a ‘formal request’

I guess that’s how they did things back then?

But sometimes she says things like that.  And it stings.

Because I’m not naturally good at cooking.

Eating–yes.

Cooking–no.

But when I got married I was determined to try.

So I bought cookbooks and watched cooking shows.

And I planned 3 course meals for every night of the week.

And the meal I remember the most was the last one he ever ate at our family dinner table.

Apricot Glazed Ham.  Garlic mashed potatoes.

His favorite.

I had already read the emails.

I knew he was going away with her.

I knew it wasn’t a ‘business trip’.

But instead I said “Can I pour you more tea?” and “Would you like more mashed potatoes?”

Maybe I hoped that what my Nana said was true.

That the way to a man’s heart was through his stomach.

He complimented the recipe.  He loved it.

I was relieved.

And then he kissed me on the cheek and left for 4 days.

That’s 96 hours of feeding babies, changing diapers, washing clothes

And 96 hours of knowing your husband is in another woman’s arms

And not being able to do anything about it except clean the sink again

Scrub the floor

And hope if you can get things clean enough

Perfect enough

Maybe everything will be ok

When he returned, he dropped his suitcase full of laundry by the bed for me to wash.

And gave all the kids souvenirs.

But my souvenir was an email he sent to her saying how he had had the most amazing time.

How no one had EVER made him feel the way she did.

How no one had EVER made him so happy.

11 years. 4 babies. And a thousand glazed hams later.

And it all came down to a 19 year old girl with a body to die for.

And then he was gone

So I threw away  my aprons.

All of them.

And I tore up all my cookbooks.

And by that I mean I literally ripped them to shreds and threw them out the front door.

I’m sure that was an interesting day for the neighbors.

I started going through McDonald’s and Burger King and Taco Bell.

What did it matter anymore?

There was no one to cook for.

No one to walk in the door at 6 pm and say “What smells so good?”

No one to sit down at the table and say “how was your day?” and “wow this is delicious”

But I kept eating.

And eating.

And eating

Because the cupcakes didn’t go away for 96 hours

They were always right there in the cabinet waiting right where I left them

But pretty soon I weighed too much to cook anyway.

The pain in my feet and back were too great to stand over a stove.

So we ordered Schwan’s because they delivered.

And we microwaved everything.

And we had a regular dinner date with Papa John’s

And the McDonald’s people started inviting me to their baby showers because they saw me so much

But now things are changing.

Food can’t be my comfort anymore

I’m losing weight.

I avoid drive-thrus.

And I am starting to cook again.

I’m experimenting with getting back in the kitchen.

Since I can actually stand over a stove now without excruciating pain.

So the other day I cooked.

A ham–ironically.

And I set the table and laid out placemats.

And we ate dinner as a family.

Just me and my 4 kids.

And the cat of course who kept trying to skip over the table.

My kids said “What smells so good?” and “how was your day?” and “wow this is delicious”

Then Savannah said “I remember this.  When we used to eat together as a family. At the table”

Because she’s the oldest and the one that remembers the most.

And I said “Yes I used to cook for you all the time”

And then Annabelle said “Why did you stop?”

I said “I don’t know.  Maybe because your dad left. And it seemed like there wasn’t a reason anymore”

“Aren’t we a good reason?” Charlotte said.

Silence.

The other kids looked at her.

Scrunched their noses up and shot glances at her like ‘why did you say that.’

But then I said “No she’s right.”

You ARE a good reason.

The best reason.

And I’m sorry for forgetting that.

And then Savannah added “That’s not the only reason Mom.  YOU are a reason to cook.  Just YOU.  Even if no one was here but you that would still be a good reason.  Because you’re a person too.”

Wow.

She’s right.

I am a person.  Aren’t I?

And that has been so much of the problem.

Because somehow I got the idea that if he wasn’t there to cook for then there was no reason to cook.

Because everything I did was for him.

And maybe that is where I went wrong.

Because cooking for your husband is a good thing.

A great thing.

And anything you can do to build up your marriage and make him feel loved is important.

But if everything you do is for him—if your whole identity is IN HIM

Then what happens when he walks out the door

When he packs up the MRS. that goes in front of your name and takes it with him?

If he’s suddenly gone because he left on his own free will or he was taken by some natural disaster

If he is the one your identity is based around

If he is the reason you get up in the morning

Then suddenly when he leaves—you have no reason to get up

No reason to cook

Or clean

Or live

You’re left with nothing.

Because you feel like nothing.

But Savannah says “You’re a person too”

What a novel idea

Me? Someone worth cooking for?

Worth getting up in the morning for?

Even if no one else is here?

So today I’m learning to cook again.

Not because I’m trying to be Betty Crocker.

Some perfect wife living in fear that if her pie crust burns he’ll leave.

No– today I’m cooking because people have to eat.

And if they’re going to eat then it might as well be good.

And because I deserve a healthy meal.

And so do my kids.

And just because there are 5 people sitting around the table instead of 6…it doesn’t make us any less of a family.

It just leaves room for one more.

Jesus.

And He is the One who always shows up.

No matter what you’re serving.

No matter if it’s burned.

And He says “How was your day?”

And when you tell him, He listens.

Untitled
A picture of me with my oldest daughter, Savannah–someone worth cooking for 🙂

 

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{ 54 comments… read them below or add one }

Jeanette April 26, 2012 at 3:45 am

You and your daughter look so much alike and both of you are beautiful. You are so right you and your children are worth cooking a good meal for. I enjoy reading your blog and wish you the very best with your weight loss and in everything. God bless you.

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Holly from 300 Pounds Down April 26, 2012 at 2:07 pm

Thanks Jeanette!!
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Gi April 26, 2012 at 3:46 am

WOW, this post really moved me. I actually began to cry, I often feel that when my partner goes away with friends or work that I have no reason to cook, no reason to get out of bed and clean either because hes not there and I don’t count myself as a reason. This post has really made think about the way I see myself and don’t do things for myself anymore.
Thank you for such a beautiful post, I vow to start seeing myself as a person and worth doing things for.
xx
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Holly from 300 Pounds Down April 26, 2012 at 2:07 pm

Thanks Gi! You are a beautiful person!!
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Faith April 26, 2012 at 4:32 am

Well, firstly I would like to say that you are a much KINDER, NICER, SWEETER woman than I because I would have made his Apricot glazed Ham with some laxatives so he spent his 4 day “business trip” on the toilet! lol
In all seriousness though, your little one is right..YOU are worth cooking for just as much as they are. 🙂
P.S. I saw your photo up there and I just have to comment on how beautiful you are, I am seriously envious of you long graceful neck (is that weird to say? lol I have such a short neck it’s something I always notice on people).
Again, great post and pun intended..that was some fantastic food for though. 🙂

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AimeeWrites April 26, 2012 at 4:35 am

Faith, I just scrolled up to look, and wow, you are right – Holly DOES have a gorgeous neck! Something I also envy. (Perhaps it IS weird to say, but now we’re both weird, so it’s okay. 😉 )
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Faith April 26, 2012 at 4:37 am

LOL! hi5, Aimee 😀

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Holly from 300 Pounds Down April 26, 2012 at 2:09 pm

Hey let’s all be weird together hahaha!!!
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Holly from 300 Pounds Down April 26, 2012 at 2:09 pm

Faith you made me laugh!!! I think that picture was fancied up via Instagram hahaha…I’m sure it’s a lot of trick photography b/c my neck is anything but graceful. In fact I’ve been noticing lately the lines that come as you get older but I say who cares?!! LOL…I earned every line and wrinkle that pops up from hear on out! And if you say I’m looking good then gosh darn it I’ll believe it!!!
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AimeeWrites April 26, 2012 at 4:33 am

Good heavens, Holly. You are such an amazing writer. And, obviously, and amazing mom, because look at – listen to – your kids. Wow. I think I’ve said that before.

I’m not being very eloquent here.

I’m so glad you’re cooking. I don’t care for cooking, either. I’d rather knit, or read a book, or…well, almost anything. But you’re right…my family is worth cooking for, as am I. I’ve been struggling with healthy eating lately, and I think this is going to help a lot. Thank you.
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Holly from 300 Pounds Down April 26, 2012 at 2:11 pm

Thanks Aimee!! That means so much to me! I’m like you. I’d rather be doing almost anything but cooking. However it’s the one way I know to be sure of what is IN my food. That it’s not full of sugar and things that make me go crazy!
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Staci April 26, 2012 at 5:19 am

Okay, enough with the charades. You are that girl’s SISTER, not MOTHER, right? You are identical, and you are both GORGEOUS! I’m glad your post went on. I was already prepared to lecture you on how your kids are worth cooking for and you are worth cooking for. 🙂 We have supper at the table as a family every single night. We just make it a priority. With 4 little ones, sometimes it’s hectic rather than relaxing! But the kids need those memories of real food and real conversation… a connection with parents and siblings…. a time to come together. So glad you all did that! Love the post. You’re so worth it!
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Holly from 300 Pounds Down April 26, 2012 at 2:11 pm

Woo hooo!! A Staci Lecture!! I’m always up for one of those anyway so bring it girl! I will learn something as I always do from you!
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Crazy lady April 26, 2012 at 5:22 am

This post is so moving, you are such an amazing woman, full of grace and humility. And an amazing writer, absolutely love the honesty and sincerity of your blog.

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Holly from 300 Pounds Down April 26, 2012 at 2:12 pm

thank you for your kind comments!! What a blessing for me to hear!
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Sandy April 26, 2012 at 10:28 am

You are so worth cooking for and so are your children. Teach them to cook for them to live a healthy life and the fast-food and microwave dinners will finally die out. Both my kids cook and bake. A boy and a girl. And I am so happy that they can whip something up–not gourmet but good wholesome cooking. It isn’t hard if you plan a bit. And just so you know, I cook a lot. But mu hubby has resorted to peanut butter and jam sandwiches or a bowl of cereal when I don’t feel like it. Because I don’t cook for him, I cook for me. There is usually enough for him though! Sometimes.
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Holly from 300 Pounds Down April 26, 2012 at 2:13 pm

What a great job you have done with your kids, Sandy, giving them that skill!! And I like your outlook. I’m going to adopt it!
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Linda Kuil April 26, 2012 at 10:49 am

Holly, question: What does your ex think about your weight-loss? Do you have to deal with him on a bi-monthly basis? I don’t know how you do it- I’d be nauseous every time I looked at him!
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Holly from 300 Pounds Down April 26, 2012 at 2:39 pm

He really doesn’t ask me about my weight loss to be honest but he was supportive of me having the surgery. And here is something VERY positive that he did. He flew his mother (the kids other grandmother) out here to take care of the kids for a week while I was in recovery. Now that is something I will always remember and be grateful for!! He has been stationed out of the country for 3 years so the kids only see him 1-2 times a year but he calls weekly. We have a very amicable relationship for the sake of the kids. I can tell you he has always fulfilled his financial obligations and I’m very grateful for that. And he is respectful, friendly and nice in all our dealings! So although I talk often about the past and how it affected me, I will say that he has tried his best given the situation to do the right thing since then regarding his obligations. And yes–it was very nauseating especially in the beginning. The only way I survived it was God literally working in me to give me the strength to survive. And He did!!
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Liz April 26, 2012 at 11:38 am

What a great post! You are absolutely right, you can’t let your identity be so centered around another person. I have a similar problem. My identity is centered around my kids. I am just their mom. I have no idea what to do when I don’t have them. When their dad takes them on the weekend, I don’t know what to do with myself. So I either go out with a girlfriend and get drunk or I sit home and count the hours until they get back. That can’t be too healthy either. Because someday they are going to grow up and leave home, and where will that leave me? Who will I be then? I’ll always be their mom, but not in the way that I am now. I think all of us need to take some time and figure out who we are. That way when the people we love the most leave, we don’t feel so lost and depressed.
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Holly from 300 Pounds Down April 26, 2012 at 2:43 pm

Oh boy do I relate to that Liz!! I think you are so right. I will never forget the first time my ex took the kids for a weekend. I was so traumatized!! I had never been away from my babies. It broke my heart. And it was SO weird to be alone. I have learned just like you that we have to have a separate identity from wife/mom or whatever it is we label ourselves as being. You are so right about this!!
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Alana Jo @ Not.So.Big.Jo April 26, 2012 at 12:23 pm

Fantastic post, and very true. You are worth cooking for. Just you! You are a person too!

I am with some of the others, you are a better woman than me. It’s untelling what I would have done. Cooking a meal for him wouldn’t have been involved. I can promise you that.

Also, congratulations on your success. You really look great!
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Holly from 300 Pounds Down April 26, 2012 at 2:44 pm

Thanks Alana JO!!!
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Amanda April 26, 2012 at 12:48 pm

I swear your goal is to make me cry at my desk at least twice a week. You ARE reason enough. 🙂
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Holly from 300 Pounds Down April 26, 2012 at 2:44 pm

Amanda!! This made me laugh. You’re awesome!
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Linda Sherwood April 26, 2012 at 1:21 pm

My husband was gone for work last week, and I didn’t cook a single meal although it was mostly because I spent 3 of them sitting next to a softball field freezing until late in the evening. Yesterday, my oldest made dinner and was complaining that two of her three siblings didn’t appreciate all of her hard work. She did a great job, and it was so nice to have someone make dinner for me (I love that!).

And I agree with previous posters, you and your daughter look so much alike, and you are both gorgeous!
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Holly from 300 Pounds Down April 26, 2012 at 2:45 pm

What a great daughter you have!! I love that she made dinner for you!! That is SO sweet!
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Chandra April 26, 2012 at 1:30 pm

Holly, I haven’t read for a week or so, I’m sorry. I’m in catch-up mode, and I started here. You’ve got me bawling. There are so many similarities in our lives…only my husband didn’t actually leave me for someone else, I told him to go because his affair was with a deck of cards (poker). But I get everything else…the identity in him, the living for him, the everything you do for him. That was so exactly my life. I get it.

Your daughter, first of all, is gorgeous and you two look so much alike. By that I mean, You are incredibly gorgeous as well!

Also, she is one smart cookie, and wise for her years. You are one incredible mom. I’m off to keep reading all I’ve missed.

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Holly from 300 Pounds Down April 26, 2012 at 2:47 pm

I’m sorry for what you went through Chandra but I’m so happy we get to “meet” and share what we’ve been through. It helps to find ways to deal with it and move on. I so relate to everything you said.Thanks so much for all the encouragement you give me . I really appreciate you!
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Rae Rae J April 26, 2012 at 1:33 pm

Gosh you two are just gorgeous. Haha, now that I scan the other comments I see how every one thinks so, too. 🙂

I love how you turn your experiences into such perfect motivational posts. It’s amazing.
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Holly from 300 Pounds Down April 26, 2012 at 2:47 pm

Oh thanks Rae Rae!!!
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Debbie April 26, 2012 at 1:42 pm

I’m surprised you didn’t poison his glazed ham. Good restraint!

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Trish @I_am_Succeeding April 26, 2012 at 1:47 pm

You both are gorgeous!

I cried through so much of this…I can relate to a lot of it and even though my husband is still here…he almost wasn’t and for the same reasons.

It was me taking me back that actually kept him here. Though still wrestling with this weight..we still have our issues.

And your daughter…reminding you that YOU too are worth it!
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Holly from 300 Pounds Down April 26, 2012 at 2:47 pm

Thanks Trish! Love you!
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Tess April 26, 2012 at 2:54 pm

Holly, you have amazing kids!!! You are obviously doing something right by them! Congrats on starting to cook again! It can be a very good family building “tool”, good times and memories can be made cooking together. If you need “help”, you should ask your readers for recipes!! I’m sure we all would love to share our favorite healthy meals, I know I would! And if you want “friends” on myfitnesspal, just say the word, I’d love to “friend” you. 😀 Keep fighting the fight, you’re doing great every day!

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Lady Amanda April 26, 2012 at 3:44 pm

I would like to thank everyone for commenting that they look alike in the picture because I have been saying that ever since Savannah was born and no one has ever agreed with me- so…. now I have a bunch of people agreeing with me- I win !!!!! ha ha he he ha ha 🙂 As for the post- I loved it. Made me want to actually cook dinner tonight. 🙂 Love you guys!

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Stephanie April 26, 2012 at 3:57 pm

I love reading your posts, you have such a great writing style and you speak from the heart! Keep it up Holly you and you family are worth it.
Love you!

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Theresa April 26, 2012 at 4:41 pm

I just found your blog today. That was a beautiful post. You are such an inspiration. We have very similar paths. I’m looking forward to following you journey. You and your daughter are beautiful.
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Anna Bana April 26, 2012 at 5:23 pm

Awesome post as always, Holly! I teared up too!! So glad you’re getting back into cooking. Eating around the table as a family and talking about your day is such important quality time you can never get back. And I agree, you do have a great neck. 🙂 Our great Aunt Dorothy told me I had a nice neck when I was in high school (she admitted she had a turkey neck) so I still make sure to moisturize it regularly so that she will be proud. ha!

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Samantha Livingston April 26, 2012 at 5:39 pm

Holly – truly a GREAT post. Chills on my arms. Guess what story’s been rattling around in my head lately? John 21: Jesus cooked breakfast on the beach for his friends. Hmmmm….that thought gives me chills too. Loving how the Lord has us in sync! 🙂
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Samantha Livingston April 26, 2012 at 5:40 pm

And may I add what that makes me think of? You’re sounding a whole lot like Jesus with this cooking thing!
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Jane April 26, 2012 at 5:43 pm

Great post, as usual. Love that Charlotte stood up for all of them and you acknowledged. Love taht Savannah stood up for you! What a beautiful family you have. Certainly a reason to have a family dinner every night. They don’t care if it’s a perfect 3 course meal either, probably they just like to have a chance to chat about the day, as a family. Don’t worry about demolishing all of your cook books. You can get every kind of recipe you could ever want on line (as I’m sure you know). Glad you are finding your own identity. It’s easy to lose yourself but oh so hard to find yourself again. So, I’m sending you big hug and pat on the back for a step (or 1 million) in the right direction. Wishing you all the best! 🙂

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Allie April 26, 2012 at 8:20 pm

Holly, I can relate to your experience. My husband of 19 years left us, I have four children also. I also was obese for many years, kept eating after he left and ended up 350 pounds.

It took another 19 years of feeling miserable and unhappy to come to the realization I wanted to live, really LIVE, for myself my kids and m grandkids. Two of my adult children dreamed I died within days of each other and unknown to each other called me relaying their dreams and their concern for me.

A year later, I have now lost 100 pounds on a low carb diet, am feeling strong, beautiful and healthy and happy, and am still a work in progress. My kids even offered to pay for surgery should the lowcarb diet not be sustainable for me. That is LOVE, more love than I ever felt or recieved from the man that abandoned his family.

I am so uplifted and inspired, reading your blog. I am so happy that you have done this at a younger age than I did, you have so many good years in front of you. Both you and your daughter are beautiful on the outside and the inside.

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Sheila April 26, 2012 at 9:59 pm

Aaaah, my daily tears. Thanks Holly. Beautiful post, really!

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Donna April 26, 2012 at 10:36 pm

Holly, An amazing post! Have you ever considered writing a book, or becoming an inspirational speaker? I think you really should consider it. You have been blessed with an amazing gift. Donna

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Holly April 27, 2012 at 5:17 am

Holly!! That is amazing, such an awesome blog post. Your children are so amazing.. Which means you are an awesome mommy!!! I look forward to seeing what you whip up in the kitchen 🙂

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Gerri April 27, 2012 at 2:37 pm

WOW! What GREAT kids you have!!! I’m SO happy for you getting your life back on track and making such wonderful memories for your kids! You are so inspiring and you’re kids will always know they can do anything they put their mind to cause their mama has proved it to them!

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Kara April 27, 2012 at 5:02 pm

Oh my word. I can’t even begin to imagine how you were feeling during that final family dinner. I can actually feel a sickness in my stomach just thinking about it.

I can completely understand why you stopped cooking. But, you are a survivor with supportive kids and a new purpose to start cooking again. What a post, what an inspiration you are!
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Andrea April 28, 2012 at 12:19 am

I love that picture. It’s beautiful. Just like this post. Seriously so special. I think your kids are right on the money. They remind you that they’re special, but so are YOU. absolutely positively special. Huge hugs. I’m glad you’re cooking more! It’s actually got potential to be fun, doesn’t it? :?)
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Tina April 28, 2012 at 12:13 pm

beautiful women!

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Trece Wyman April 29, 2012 at 5:43 pm

Your Savannah is a rare and precious jewel, with wisdom beyond her years.
Trece
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spatters3 April 30, 2012 at 7:21 pm

two beautiful “persons”

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suzanne April 30, 2012 at 10:39 pm

Wow this brought back so many memories of my last marriage. Not happy ones either.

It takes time for us to realize that we are worth all and every effort. Just us.

You and your daughter both look so beautiful!!

Never forget you are worth everything.
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Gen November 3, 2012 at 3:00 pm

Please do not be offended by what I’m about to say….er, type. I do not mean it to be painful, but a thought that popped into my head. I do not mean it to be mean…I promise. It’s also, something I’ve learning/learning over time.
In the post, something stood out to me: “Because everything I did was for him.” Maybe that’s why the Lord allowed him to leave. Putting anything (trust me on this) before Him….it’s not going to end well. The Bible states that He is a jealous God. I too have put other people and other things before Him. Sometimes I’m able to hear that small voice that “warns” me when something/one has taken priority and can back up and ask Him to help set the priorities straight. Or, if I’m “in too deep”, it/they tends to be taken/leave/disappear/whatever. I haven’t learned that lesson completely (do we ever?), but I tend to see it more now than I used to. For that, I’m thankful.
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